Former Reddit CEO on why Ellen Pao is ‘Silicon Valley’s #1 Feminist Hero’

There’s been a revolt on Reddit.

First, users were outraged after a popular employee who managed the site’s “IAMA” subreddit was fired. Next, CEO Ellen Pao stepped down, which caused outpourings on both sides as some defended her and others rejoiced her ouster.

But perhaps the biggest battle has been over free speech.

Some users were outraged after a forum called “fatpeoplehate” was banned from Reddit, which is known for being a bastion of free speech. Users insulted Pao for “hating free speech,” prompting a petition for Pao to step down because “Reddit entered into a new age of censorship” when she was appointed interim CEO.

But former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong says the notion that Pao is anti-free speech is completely backward. Wong posted on Reddit what he prefaced as “something I neglected to tell you all this time.”

“On at least two separate occasions, the board pressed (Ellen Pao) to outright ban ALL the hate subreddits in a sweeping purge,” Wong wrote in a post on Reddit Tuesday night. “She resisted, knowing the community. Ellen isn’t some ‘evil, manipulative, out-of-touch incompetent she-devil’ as was often depicted.”

Wong said Pao was inclined to uphold free-speech policies, but the group “fatpeoplehate” was banned for inciting off-site harassment, not simply because it discussed “fat-shaming.”

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“With her at the head of the company, the company would be immune to accusations of promoting sexism and racism,” Wong said. “She is literally Silicon Valley’s #1 Feminist Hero.”

Wong said that had Pao stayed in her position, her long-term strategies for the company were to surface and publicize the good aspects of Reddit, while still tolerating and upholding free speech in the nastier, angrier forums on Reddit.

His parting words for the people of Reddit?

“We tried to let you govern yourselves and you failed, so now The Man is going to set some Rules. Admittedly, I can’t say I’m terribly upset.”

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